Techopia Live looks back – and ahead – on the year in Ottawa tech

Editor's Note

This story was later updated to include the full value of the series-C round.

Before signing off for the year, Techopia Live assembled a panel to share the highlights from the year in tech that was and give predictions on what 2019 might have in store.

Joining Techopia editor Craig Lord were OBJ’s print editor David Sali, head of content Peter Kovessy and reporter Rosa Saba as well as Susan Richards, co-founder of SaaS accounting firm numbercrunch and co-chair of Invest Ottawa.

2018 awash in venture capital, M&A activity

There was only one place to start when it came to Ottawa’s 2018 tech highlights: Assent Compliance. Richards said the compliance software firm’s $160-million series-C round helped put Ottawa’s tech scene on the map in Canada, and that the firm’s rapid growth and massive funding rounds are making it a “great champion” of the city.

But as Sali pointed out, Assent was not alone in raising venture capital this year. You.i TV, Corsa Technologies and Agrisoma Biosciences also raised their series-C rounds in 2018, with companies such as MindBridge AI, Raven Telemetry and Slice Labs all taking in venture capital. Together, Ottawa firms raised more than $200 million in venture capital over the course of the year – a stark contrast from recent years when Ottawa’s tech leaders decried a lack of access to cash in the capital, Sali noted.

A number of Ottawa companies went on acquisition streaks this past year as well, Saba noted. Calian Group alone had seven acquisitions in 2018, and companies such as Martello Technologies and Clearford Water Systems continued executing on M&A strategies of their own.

The acquisition pendulum swings both ways, however. Mitel ended its 45-year independent streak as an Ottawa firm with its landmark $2-billion acquisition by private equity firm Searchlight Capital and space tech company MDA bought Kanata’s Neptec in a $42-million deal.

Speaking of handing over the keys to the business, 2018 also marked a few instances of founders stepping aside as CEOs of their companies. PageCloud’s Craig Fitzpatrick, Giatec Scientific’s Aali Alizadeh and Klipfolio’s Allan Wille all stepped down from their chief executive positions, letting another seasoned exec take the company to the next level.

Sectors to watch in 2019

In the coming year, smart cities, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity could shape the conversations around water coolers at Ottawa’s tech firms.

Sali mentioned AI firms such as Raven Telemetry, which repurposes big data in the manufacturing sector, as emerging disruptors in the field. Artificial intelligence is also key to the rise of “smart” tech applications in cities, health and government – a trend that Richards highlighted as an opportunity for Ottawa firms.

Saba said she’s keeping her eye on cybersecurity firms in the capital such as Crypto4A. Given their proximity to the federal government, which can set the agenda and drive demand in security applications, 2019 could be a breakout year for Ottawa’s cyber firms.

Saba also mentioned the cybersecurity field’s growing talent gap, a critical issue that Kovessy picked up on.

Ottawa tech companies such as MindBridge AI and Leonovus have publicly discussed their challenges growing amid a tightening talent pool in the capital, concerns echoed by the annual Ottawa Business Growth Survey. Kovessy said he’s looking to see whether efforts from the likes of Invest Ottawa to attract talent to the city will bear fruit in the coming year.

Wherever 2019 takes Ottawa, you can be sure Techopia Live will be there in the new year to follow the trends, emerging startups and established players in the local tech scene.